A new pro-independence political party is in the process of being formed in Taiwan. The party is to be named Nation-building Party (NBP) in Taiwanese, and Taiwan Independence Party (TAIP) in English. Its leaders have declared that building an independent Taiwan nation is the primary goal of the party. It will be officially established on 10 December 1996, International Human Rights Day, to emphasize the importance the party attaches to international human and political rights.
The driving force behind the new political party are several leading members of Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP). The most prominent are professors Lin Shan-tien and Li Yung-chih of National Taiwan University, and Prof. Chuang Chi-ming of Tam Kang University. Prof. Lin is the chief spokesman.
Until the end of 1995, these professors were ardent DPP supporters, and were popular and sought-after speakers at DPP election rallies. However, after a series of disappointing vacillations by the present DPP-leadership and a perceived weakening of the DPP's adherence to the founding principle of pursuing Taiwan independence, the university professors, supported by a number social organizations, decided to go ahead and prepare for the formation of a fully pro-independence political party.
The attempts by DPP leaders Shih Ming-teh and Hsu Hsin-liang to play political power games, first by cooperating with the pro-unification New Party and recently with the ruling KMT, has deeply disappointed many of the DPP's core supporters. In December 1995, then-chairman Shih Ming-teh orchestrated a "grand reconciliation" with the pro-unification New Party and aligned himself with the NP in an unsuccessful attempt to run for the presidency of the Legislative Yuan. In the Spring of 1996, in a peculiar zig-zag change of course, the new chairman of the DPP, Mr. Hsu Hsing-liang, offered to join the KMT in forming a coalition government.
These moves were seen by many DPP supporters as an attempt to gain political power at the expense of some of the party's basic principles. In the view of many, it exemplifies the fact that the present DPP-leadership has no longer a clear vision for Taiwan's future. The TAUP members felt the need to form a new political party in order to keep the vision of Taiwan independence a major element in Taiwan's strategy for the future.
The NBP has received its warmest support in Kaohsiung city where volunteers have set up offices to recruit members and raise funds. The new Nation-building Party may diminish the position of the DPP, as pro-independence supporters of DPP will switch their allegiance to NBP. However, overall it will strengthen the opposition movement, as it will give opposition supporters a broader choice. A fully pro-independence party will keep the DPP honest, and at the same time send a clearer message to China and President Lee Teng-hui in future negotiations.
Whether the Fourth Party will become a force to be reckoned with on Taiwan's political landscape will of course depend on the strength of its electoral support. According to estimates in Taiwan, it could win between fifteen and twenty percent of the votes, more than the pro-unification New Party.
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